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Havana's Carnival: A Pause for Joy

Cuba's tourist offer, in addition to good beaches, summer heat and the people's hospitality, is integrated into traditions transmitted from generation to generation for several centuries, being this the case of Havana's Carnival.

Every year, thousands of Cubans look forward to the traditional carnival festivities, a colorful and explosive show of allegoric floats and dancers.

The carnival is one of the country's oldest traditions that dates back several centuries ago, when black slaves held collective marches and dances to commemorate the days of Corpus Christi and the Epiphany.

Authorized by their Spanish masters, the slaves enjoyed a few days off once a year, and every January 6, on the day of Epiphany, they were allowed to reproduce the songs and dances they had brought from their African homelands.

Dates have changed with the passing of time, and in the past few decades, the carnival is held in summer, a period in which most Cubans are on vacations.

Amidst the blend of salsa music and color, groups of dancers such as La Jardinera, La Giraldilla de La Habana, Los Guaracheros de Regla, Los Marqueses de Atares and El Alacran animate the festivities.

Group of dancers.
Carnival charanga.
Enjoying the carnival.

Many of these groups have been founded in neighborhoods of the Cuban capital, where they are preparing the youngest generations, also represented at the carnival, to replace them.

Precisely, one whole day during the carnival is dedicated to children, with clowns, magicians, floats and sweets flooding the natural scenery of these festivities, Havana's Malecon (waterfront), where at sunset, the beautiful sight of the blue Caribbean Sea compensates carnival goers for the summer heat.

Those taking part in Havana's carnival for the first time are often drawn by the blend of elements such as the intense color, traditional dances and Cuban musical rhythms - usually accompanied by conga drums and the acute sound of a Chinese trumpet.

Every year, spectators become active participants during the festivities, since, according to many, the sound of the music performed by the island's most select popular bands and their catchy chorus are a call to dance, no matter where people come from or whether they are Cubans or foreigners.

The parades along the Malecon also include the so-called "Muñecones" (huge figures representing the most varied characters), in addition to the "faroleros", dancers who carry a multicolored accessory resembling a streetlight, making it rotate constantly.

As a complement, dishes from island's cuisine and refreshing beverages, especially very cold beer and genuine Cuban rum, as well as the natural scenery offered by the Malecon, blend to provide a much expected choice to those who prefer summer to visit the largest Antillean island.

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